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The Field

Historic preservation is a dynamic and evolving field, focusing on the care and management of the built environment and the protection of cultural heritage, in the widest sense.

Now strongly tied to local, state and federal laws, historic preservation as both a field of inquiry and as a profession has matured considerably since the beginnings of interest in preserving aspects of history and culture first took root during the middle part of the 19th century. Historic preservationists today work in city, state and county agencies, for the federal government, in museums and non-profit organizations and in private planning, architecture and resource management firms. Increasingly, preservationists are involved in education, both at the K-12 level and in colleges and universities. There are currently over two dozen institutions of higher learning in the U.S. offering degrees or other courses or training in historic preservation.

Graduates of historic preservation programs might find themselves involved in any of the following activities or jobs:

  • serving as the staff advisor to a local historic preservation commission;
  • working for a cultural resource firm, conducting surveys of historic and archaeological resources;
  • preparing design guidelines for a neighborhood or community as part of an architectural team;
  • conducting a detailed examination of a historic site or building as part of a meticulous restoration or rehabilitation plan;
  • reviewing proposed development projects on behalf of a state or county agency to ensure compliance with historic preservation laws;
  • preparing an educational module for schools on architecture and the environment;
  • conducting public workshops on historic preservation issues either on behalf of a non-profit organization or a governmental agency;
  • devising a maintenance plan for a building of historic significance;
  • designing a new addition to a historic building or a new building in a historic neighborhood;
  • working as an administrator for a federal agency involved in historic preservation work, e.g., the National Park Service and other divisions of the Department of the Interior, the General Services Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, or even the Department of Defense, which has its own many historic preservation requirements;
  • researching the history of a building, site or area as part of an interpretation plan;
  • managing a museum or other non-profit preservation-related organization;
  • preparing measured drawings and other documentation for a historic property as part of a larger preservation project;
  • working in a grants-giving organization involved in cultural programs;
  • conducting mortar or paint analysis to determine the original character of a building;
  • developing a tourism management plan for a city or region, or possibly a developing country, focusing on cultural heritage;
  • teaching younger students about their heritage or conducting a course for adults or full-time college or university students.